Race Reviews

Johnny’s Rant on The Via Lehigh Valley Marathon

johnnyJohnny is a salty personality on the best of days. When he got miffed about the Via Lehigh Valley Marathon, I said write a post about it. I’ll post it. Johnny edited this a few times and softened some of his comments. Without any editing from me, here you go…

I hadn’t been following a proper training plan leading up to the September Marathon. I’d been struggling with plantar fasciitis and a debilitating pizza addiction for months before I even registered. My foot finally became tolerable sometime in August and I decided to just run the race without any time goals. Luckily, I had some friends that were running too and I was able to tag along. Truth is, I could have just as easily stayed in bed that Sunday. After my experience at the Lehigh Valley Marathon this weekend, I wish I would have.

Now, I consider myself a strong-enough runner. I’m a 2:58 marathoner. I’ve run a number of races (and spent a lot of money) in my 6 years as a Competitive Runner. Marathons, ultras, timed races. I have never once left a race frustrated and angry about race organization and simple logistics. I will not be running the Lehigh Valley Marathon again. I left so angry that I even tweeted horrible things to Bart Yasso.

7 am race start. A 15 minute drive from our hotel. Point to point from Allentown, PA to Easton. Leave at 5:50. Traffic at 6:02. Sitting on 78 waiting to get onto 29. No big deal, there are a lot of runners. We’ll be able to get the car parked and still have time for a banana and a pit-stop. They’ll probably even delay the start.

Sitting. 15 minutes go by. We’ve moved a couple of car-lengths. The exit sign is getting closer. We can see the hospital where the race parking is, but nothing is moving. Tractor trailers flying by in the far left lane. Horns are blowing. Cars are trying to cut into the line from two lanes over. What’s the race plan? People are getting out of their vehicles on the side of the interstate and walking the half-mile to the start. We are growing increasingly wary of missing the gun.

I’ve found out after the fact: this year there were 1,358 marathon finishers as opposed to 544 last year – 897 for the half compared to 655.

We finally make it onto Cedar Crest Blvd and into the parking lot. I let my girlfriend out at a stop sign so she can use the port-a-pot. Park the car on the upper level of a garage. Hear the national anthem. Piss next to the car. Pin my bib. Run to the start. Find friends. The whole dynamic was off. They had been stuck in the same mess coming the other way.

I didn’t care though. I was here with my friends. I was here to have a good time. We’re all at the start. We’re all running.

The course itself was enjoyable. There was plenty of aid – water and Gatorade and gels and all that. I could find plenty to gripe about (point to point, cinder trails, weird loop thing halfway), but it’s nothing that I didn’t know going in. I do find it kind of interesting that the big selling point of the race is that it’s a great Boston qualifier even though it’s primarily run on loose gravely trails. PRO TIP: don’t wear bright pink shoes on cinder. It’s black and will just destroy them.

We crossed the line just under 4:01. Reunited with gf and found some shade. Went looking for some food. Found cookies and pretzels but not much else. Ended up getting the last banana and orange in a pre-packaged bag. The marathon claims that the average finisher runs a 4:02. We were average finishers taking the last of the nutrition available from other runners. Could have been someone having a bad day, or someone running their first marathon. Either way, I didn’t like that they had already run out.

There was plenty of beer though. It was delicious too.

My real beef with the marathon though was the fiasco after the finish line festivities. Since it was point to point, we had to shuttle back to the start. 1300+ runners. Got into line right around noon. Second bus came by at 1. By 1:45 we hadn’t seen another one. People were getting into cars with strangers. Crazy lady tried (and succeeded) getting the line to move ‘into the shade’. Grown men, shirtless with nipple tape, walking into the road waving a twenty asking for a 20 mile ride to Allentown. We just ran a marathon. I don’t care how good-a-shape you’re in – run 26 miles and you are tired and you want food and you want your stuff.

We made it back to the car THREE AND A HALF hours after we finished running. Hungry and mad and irritated. Actually, pretty pissed off too. Something that was supposed to be a fun day was tarnished by poor logistical planning. The race was clearly oversold. I found it no surprise when I saw the numbers.

McDonald’s felt less like a treat and more like a necessity.

Oh, and if you have 2255+ runners and you’re having a big post-race party with a band where family and spectators can hang out – please consider having more than two portable toilets. Yuck.

tl;dr: Horrendous traffic causing runners to miss the start. Lack of nutrition at the finish. Shuttle bus fiasco at the finish. Don’t waste your money.

UPDATE: After a post to the marathon’s Facebook page, I received an email from race organizers. They apologized for the inconvenience and even offered complimentary entry into next year’s race. If anything else, I’m glad that they were receptive to comments (even though I didn’t have anything nice to say) and took the time to write me. Who knows – maybe I’ll give it another go.

2 Comments

  1. I ran Lehigh this year as my first ever marathon. I wasn’t impressed, getting to start like 10 minutes before start due to parking issues.. Bus transportation after race was HORRIBLE. I won’t be back next year.

  2. Ran the race with plantar fasciitis on September 7th, 2014. Never ran faster than 9 minute miles on long distances during preparation, because my target race is Philadelphia in two months (when I hope to be fully recovered from PF), and finished in 3:54 without pain. Registered two weeks before, even though it was closed, which was a privilege. Since I worked the day before, and drove 2.5 hours to Allentown, they had my number waiting for me at the tent. At 55 I’m still trying to break my 3:25 PR from 2007, but I knew it wasn’t going to happen in Easton because I did not have the training, but I enjoyed the experience to the point that I’m considering driving there with my wife to ride our bicycles on the course. This year the water stations were fully supplied. There were more than enough volunteers guiding us. Bart Yaso cheered us right before entering the trail. I’ve seen more lonely courses in Michigan and Wisconsin. I don’t really care about food within the first two or three hours after completing a marathon because my stomach is still returning to normal. The buses that drove us back to Allentown were on time, and I only walked like 20 meters to my car. Would I run this race again? Definitely yes, hopefully without PF and with a much better training. Thank you for sharing your experience. I wonder is your PF is gone. You’re welcome to e-mail me at Enriquemurillo1@yahoo.com

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